Black US teenager Trayvon Martin’s shooting, and subsequent acquittal of his killer, elicits this from Laurence Inman.
I came across one of those little films on the interweb the other day. Oh yes, I remember now – someone had put it up on Facebook, with the comment Watch this; you won’t believe it.
I watched it and, unfortunately, did believe it.
The film was from America. The scene was a park in what looked like a fairly well-to-do area. A bike was chained to a bench. A man, aged about twenty-five, was trying to release the bike, using in turn a file, a hammer, a hacksaw and a bolt-cutter. Some people ambled past, making observations on the difficulty of his task. One or two of them, older men on the whole, asked him casually if the bike was his. ‘Well, technically, no,’ he answered. Or, ‘Not yet.’
Some of the old-timers seemed satisfied with this answer and strolled off. One or two said things like, ‘You know, you could get into trouble doing that.’ Then they too wandered away.
After a time another actor took over the role of would-be bike-thief. He was also in his mid-twenties, but something about him provoked a completely different response. People stopped. Lots of them. Men, women, of all ages. Group-outrage began to swirl through them like a tornado. They filmed the scene on their phones. They assured the man that they were calling the police.
You’ve guessed it. The second man was black.
At the end of the film we were treated to a third scenario. This time the bike was attacked by a young, slim, blonde woman. She was a picture of Nordic beauty, wearing a tight top and tiny shorts. She too assured passers-by that she was nicking the bike. Even so, they queued up to help her do it!
In America, the bloke who shot Trayvon Martin has just been found Not Guilty of murder. Apparently, in Florida, if you come across a stranger in a ‘gated community’ and you feel an ickle bit fwikened because you feel this person might be up to no good and you’ve got a loaded gun handy – well, you can kill him. Just in case. And if it turns out he was totally innocent, that’s just part of the price you have to pay for having ‘liberal’ gun-laws.
I know we shouldn’t feel smug about the stage we’ve reached in race-relations here, but I’m convinced we’re doing better than America. Last week I saw some offensive drivel sprayed in a path in Cannon Hill Park. Next day it had been removed.
And I’m still impressed by the swift response of the government – the Tory government, under John Major – to the Dunblane massacre. They just banned all hand-guns and said you’ll go down for years just for touching one. They listened to the ‘gun-lobby’ and said, ‘Okay, we’ve heard your argument, now bugger off. Kids’ lives are more important than your daft hobby.’